Tuesday, April 30, 2013

On Duty

While I'm away at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, also known as Farm Aid, the Wild Irish Boy will be on duty taking care of numerous and needy creatures.  We are grateful for his service.  Bertha will keep him company.

Bags Are Us

Final preparations are being made for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this weekend.  We will have more Bundaflicka Knitting Totes than ever before, including two big, floppy wonderful messenger totes in beautiful Swedish colors.
We will also have lovely, funky blocks of  olive oil felting soap milled from the scraps of many different varieties of goat milk soap, and tons of Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme to soothe and protect those hard working farmer hands.

Those of you who cannot travel to the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship, Maryland, can get in touch and this bundaflicka will get the goods to you via good old US Mail.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Night

In from the barn to wind down a bit after a busy day.  So good to look up the hill and see the flock grazing on green grass when just a short month ago the hillside was streaked with snow.   Still no goat babies.  Got another mom-to-be clipped, wormed and vaccinated.  I'm getting some lovely mohair off these ladies which I will dye this summer.  Drying wet fiber is so much easier when the sun and wind helps out.  I'm thrilled that my Fancy, of the Fancy and Matilda Nubian goat duo, is pregnant.  She has quite the udder on her already.  I'll have to get my milking stand ready.  I'm planning on making the milk room a milking parlor.  I'm stroking Fancy's udder and legs to get her used to being handled.  I'm hoping to raise enough milk to be milk independent here on the farm.  I want to make some goat milk lotion to compliment my heavy duty Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme.  We'll see how it goes.  I adore my beautiful, sensuous, but gutsy Nubian girls.  Many thanks to Peggy Van Vorce of West Creek Family Farm for the fabulous goats.  Will sew a bit before bedy-bye.  Still tired from hopping around all day with the paper making.  I feel good on six hours sleep if I can get it.  Night time is my most productive time, after the sheep are bedded down and the barn is quiet.  The White Boys are barking their warning into the darkness for the predators to stay away, and the inside dogs are holding down the sofas.  I make my popcorn and lemon/ginger tea and run my sewing machine.  When life gives you a heavy load, sew totes to sort it all out.

Hand Made Paper 101

Fawn and I set up four stations in the classroom - one for blending pulp, one for pouring the pulp in the deckle, one for sponging off the wet pulp and one for ironing.  The kids loved it - even the kids who come in and see something strange then say I won't do it then tried it.  We made a big mess and we were pretty well knackered at the end of the day.  There is a sign on my classroom door for the custodian that says don't clean this room. We don't want to give anyone a heart attack.  The hand made papers are really cool.  My art professor friend Carol Crayonbox, with 30 years of experience teaching art, gave me some large "koosh" sheets for soaking up excess water which came in very handy.  The paper making process is labor intensive, but has so much potential within the creative process.  We used only papers from our own scrap box along with cilantro, boxwood leaves, ground up pot-pourri, feathers, ferns, and sparkles.  The papers required much ironing to keep them from curling.  No hydraulic flateners here.  Just kid power.


Clipped a goatie girl in the maternity pen last night.  Beautiful mohair that should have come off a month ago. Story of my life.  This skinny little girl is so pregnant and puffy I can't believe she didn't give birth last night.  Got back inside around 9:15 intending to get right to work.  Didn't sit down at the machine until ten.  By the time Jay Leno came on I had two partially finished bags hanging from the rafters with cute Diane Edwards buttons on.  I was so tired I and the dogs were so sound asleep I decided to take a chance and not do a barn check.  Woke up to see sheep dotting the horizon through the window.  Somebody forgot to close the gate!  This would be the ultimate bucolic wild farm scene if I did not have to bomb out the door to work.  Luckily spouse is heading out to a weatherization meeting in Albany and doesn't have to leave until later.  He'll get Izzy out there and bring them in before he leaves.  Izzy only has one direction.  He can't collect the flock, but he can drive it.   I like Fridays in school.  Everyone is happy about it being Friday.  Today we have a breakfast buffet in honor of a teacher aide who is retiring.  Fawn and I are set up to make hand made paper.  What a big production that is.  Three tables full of trays, deckles, sponges, dyes, botanicals, irons, etc.  We'll see how it goes.  I would like to do papermaking as my observation and we are making a test run to see if it will work.  Good to plan something unique and exciting for the principal to watch, but one should use discretion with my student population.  No baby goats this morning.  I'm thankful for that as it is below freezing and that baby would have been shivering.  I have sweaters ready for them.  Very excited...I adore my goat babies, and mohair is to dye for. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Maryland Waits for No Woman

The last few days before Maryland Sheep and Wool are very busy.  With school and commuting, dinner and doggies, then sheep and chores, I can't start working on product until around ten at night.  At twelve I make myself go to bed but would prefer to stay up later.  Six am comes way too soon.  My booth will be stuffed with many wonderful quality hand made things, just the way I like it.   I'm happy that my daughter in law Annie has joined the Maggie's Farm team, along with Sharon from school who is busy wrapping soap all this week.  Many hands make the load lighter.  Mia will be coming too.  What a fabulous girl-time we will have at night when the festival patrons are gone home and we can party.  I'm waiting on my beeswax and lavender so I can make Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme all weekend.  I'm excited about seeing the festival friends I only see once or twice a year.  It's hugs and catching up all day long. 
Maryland is so beautiful this time of year.  Travelling there from our northern climate is like stepping into summer.  I hate leaving the farm, with goat babies due any minute, but I tell them all that Mommy is doing this for them.  I'm thrilled to report that my Nubian goat, Fancy, is pregnant!  I'm hoping her partner, Metilda, is pregnant, too.  Goat milk for soap and us!  Now to sew a while before beddy-bye.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Turning Out the Totes

Smoke is pouring out of my sewing machine.  A new crop of Bundaflicka Totes is hanging from the rafters.  I think I've done almost 25 in the last month or so.  Some are sold already but I'll have a decent showing at the upcoming Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  The totes I bring home will go to the Hamilton Farmer's Market the week after.  I never get tired of sewing them.  I have a stack cut out which makes it easier to put one together at night when I come in from chores, like right now.  I have stacks of beautiful fabric thanks to my personal fabric shopper, Carol of Crayonbox Designs near Ithaca.  It's important to have a significant stash for when I need a certain color lining, etc.  I could change the three main designs I make, but they work so well, and customers love the easy access interiors with all the pockets.  I'm using sheep horn buttons Kim makes, or glass fired buttons by Diane Edwards of Sweet Annie Handspun, or my own polymer clay buttons.  This year's bags have all three.  Some of my totes have no buttons at all, like the Messenger style and the snap frame.  I think I'll sew a bit now.  It's cold enough at night to light the stove.  I love to sew with a little smoldering fire nearby.  Lemon ginger tea with honey helps, too.

Color and More Color

I love to paint with my students.  We have gallons of paint and I'm going to do my best to use it before the end of school.  I'm so lucky I get to paint with them.  I come home to these beautiful animals and play with their gifts, then go to school and play with my students.   We were gifted with a big piece of cardboard from one of the tech classes.  I asked one student to draw a big barnyard scene on it.  All the classes are working on cow portrait painting tutorials along with rooster paintings.  We'll display the animal portraits around the barnyard scene on the wall in the main hall.  Too much fun...


I saw the UPS truck going along my road from way up on top of the hill.  Needless to say I made my way down with the doggies lickedy split.  Two months of hard work harvesting my wool and mohair, then picking, washing, dyeing, stirring, simmering, washing again and drying, would pay off in three giant boxes of buttery soft Bluefaced Leicester fibery goodness.  The three big runs and one little mohair run are different than what I expected but very beautiful and that's okay.   I can't wait to spin a sample of them, if time allows before I leave for Maryland.  I'm also anxious to see the look on Kimmie Cornerstone's face when she sees this year's wooly produce.  I know these colors will be fantastic in Carol Crayonbox's designer knitted purses, too.  The black adult mohair is nicer than I hoped it would be.  The only dye I had left on the farm was blue - no time to have more shipped in and get it to the mill in time for Maryland.  This lovely denim color will be alot of fun to spin and fantastic for sock yarn.   Love the apple green, and the orangey-red is so iridescent and soft.  The goldish-chartreuse is dotted with fuschia angora rabbit.  All will be available at Maryland Sheep and Wool, just one short hour west of Baltimore, and on-line as soon as I can post it.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Finally Friday.  I don't think it hit me until I just sat down on the sofa to watch the news. Five work days.  Five rushing around making sure everyone is emptied, fed and watered. Five days of what the heck and I going to wear and is it clean. Five days of do I have enough gas or time to stop for more. Five commutes 50 miles back and forth - in great weather thank you Lord. Five days of running across the parking lot and calming myself as I walk in the door to make it look like I got there then minutes ago and was just chatting with people in the hall.  Five days of what to do with all these art classes ranging from six to eighteen year olds.  Five days of special ed paper work to do.  Five days of always smiling and never, ever revealing your true feelings about kids and co-workers.  Five days of worrying about babies being born under a cold window and mothers ignoring them.  Five days of wondering if a goat with long mohair got caught on a nail and panicked. Five days of what do I need as I'm leaving civilization and driving far out into the country where everything, except the tiny village general store, which is six miles out of my way, is a half hour away.  Okay, don't get me wrong.  I am so thankful for my job.  I love my co-workers who are the most genuinely nice, caring and totally down-to-earth people.   Sure there are things I hate, which I cannot let pass my lips or fingertips, but isn't every job that way?  If I didn't have my job there would be no paying off the carding mill today so I can get my wool shipped to me for Maryland Sheep and Wool.  They took more than half my pay, but that's my fault for not getting it washed, dyed and dried sooner.  It will be slim picken for the next two weeks, and I have to figure out how I'm going to get to Maryland with all my loot - on a wing and a prayer maybe?  If it wasn't for my job I wouldn't have four lovely green and delicious bales of hay in the back of my blazer for the sheep and goats.  I'm not buying any more of that lousy hay from the dairy farmer.  My feeders are crammed with sticks that are no good for anything but bedding and my sheep are getting way too thin.  I confess I let them out to graze yesterday.  There is a little grass and I decided to let them have some before they get too weak.  Thankfully I'm not lambing.  Took the doggies up to the top of the hill - our spa treatment - and back down.  Don't know what I'm making for dinner.  Spouse always expects something.  He's bringing me Starbucks for a payday treat.  Going out to dinner is an impossible dream during hay-buying time.  Don't even think about it.  Maybe if I do well at Maryland Sheep and Wool I'll treat us to Frank's in New Berlin.  The news makes me sick.  Chechnians? What the heck is wrong with those kids who came here, got visas, got scholarships.  My father and his family came here from Sweden where they were poor as church mice, got jobs as domestics and carpenters, and wouldn't even speak Swedish except for whispering in the kitchen.  They were so proud to be Americans.  When my father became an NYPD cop they had arrived.  They had a US civil servant in the family.  That's enough of a rant.  No babies in the barn.  The ladies are liking their special treatment in the maternity pen.  I'm afraid they will hold on to those kids until the night before I leave for Maryland.  Was hoping to get them born and settled before I leave spouse in charge.  He will have his hands full as it is.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Random Thoughts

No matter how serious my problems seem at times, at least my legs haven't been blown off.  My farm would be in big trouble if I had no legs.  There would be no going to Maryland Sheep and Wool in two short weeks.  No walks up the lovely hill that is my farm with the dogs to play in the pond, like we did a few minutes ago.  It goes on and on.  Tonight I'm thankful for many things.  Just a few, in no particular order, are listed below:

1.  Two students I worked with the first half of the year before I became full time art teacher have finally been awarded their GED diplomas.  They stuck with it after several failing scores.  Now the world is their stage and I applaud them.  They both came to my art room to hug me and tell me the good news.  That means the world to me. 

2.  There is green grass coming up all over the hill.  I can't wait to let the whole flock out to enjoy it.  No more marginal hay purchased at a local farm that is saving it's "good hay" for the cows.  There is nothing, I mean nothing, (besides fresh green grass) like my own hay, grown on my own land.  The sheep like it best.   When the sheep are happy, I am happy.

3.  I am thankful for good health.  I feel pretty good.  The broken leg, broken foot and sprained ankle all like to say hello now and then, but I can still climb the big hill with the doggies pulling me along, and climb the hay mow ladders every night.  BP is down, weight is not.  If only my belly was as tight as my behind, but, hey, we can't have everything.

4.  School is going well.  There are "incidents" every day but it's been a while since I have come home absolutely devastated by events at school.  May it stay that way.

5.  My bio-kids are healthy and happy.  The are all successful professionals and enjoying their work.  All three are public servants and giving back in many ways.  None of them are being paid what they deserve, but such is life. 

6.  I am thankful for my friends.  I have so much help getting ready for Maryland Sheep and Wool - the big show that took me five years of applying to get into - that I know it will be a fantastic year.  I just received a big box of gorgeous designer hand knitted, felted and embellished hand bags from Carol Crayonbox.  I will take them to Maryland to decorate my booth.  Each one is made from hand spun yarn, much of it from my flock, and has incredibly intricate insides.   My friend Sharon at school is wrapping a ton of soap for me, which frees me up to sew bags and make hand creme.  Their help means so much.

7.  I am thankful for my farm.  I am so far away from the city and the dangers therein.  The land is very beautiful and I draw strength from it.  My animals are amazing and enrich my life in so many ways I can't describe.  I am a very lucky girl. 

It's out to chores, like I do every night after our walk up the hill, after dinner and the evening news.   I'll come back inside and sew on a Bundaflicka tote.  They are simple, no-nonsense and strong, kind of like me.  When life gives you a heavy load, sew totes to carry it around in.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Miss a day in my diary and there's too much to report.  Went back to work yesterday and worried about goats giving birth all day.  I have a few months of sick days saved up but I have that "ethic" thing going.  We are having vehicle challenges and I had to take Matt's ancient Saturn which cannot be driven over 40 mph without terrible clanking noises.  His commute to Syracuse is twice the length of mine on busier roads so he took my ancient Blazer.  When I got three or four angry drivers behind me I just pulled over and let them pass.  I had to rush out of school at 3 to get to Hamilton Village office to hand in my farmer's market application before the absolute latest time of 4 pm.  At 40 mph it took me a while to get there.  Then there were the stops for lye, olive oil and cat food.  Another 17 miles home to the farm and I rush in to find the goat mommies lying about, chewing their cud.  No babies.  Last night I thought for sure there was one coming.  I got the doggies out for our spa walk up the big hill and around the pond.  Sometimes I mill around for a while after I get home from school, getting nothing done, trying to get my head on straight.  I have heavy people and kid contact all day, so different from my GED job downstairs.  Now, in the art room which is right smack in the middle of the upstairs wing, we have staff and kids wandering in all day long.  No such thing as retreating behind my desk to spin a little on  the hidden wheel.  It really did settle me when the going got rough.  I have so much to do to get ready for Maryland it makes my head spin.  Best thing to do is just get busy and do it.  A little grass is coming up, but with this cold, wet, spring - which is normal for this area but last year spoiled us - the green stuff is not exactly bursting out of the ground.  I hate this hay but Matt likes the guy and is willing to go and get it for us.  I'll have to pull all the sticks out of the hay feeders.  The grass can't grow fast enough for me and my sheep.  Patchouli soap on deck for today, between baby-watching trips out to the barn.  That will make me feel much, much better.  Love the stuff.  20 totes hanging ready for tags.  I have such little time to sew that it is a delight, not a chore, for me.  I stay in the chair in front of the machine until my back and body says no more, you have to lie down.  I got such a good night sleep last night it was beautiful, until the dogs woke me up before six.  If I don't take them out Cooper starts to eat the wall around the door.  Pulled on boots and jacket and ran up to the pond in the mist with them.  It was delightful.  Will be happy when I have sheep grazing all around me on those walks.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


After all these years raising sheep and goats I am still in awe of the miracle of birth.  Stayed home from school today - first time since Rhinebeck last October - to wait on goat babies.  Hard for me to call them kids as that sounds too much like my students, who are not nearly as cute and cuddly as the babies here on the farm.  I have two older does about to deliver, one with not much of an udder.  Fingers crossed that one of the moms with a good udder and a lot of colostrum gives birth first so I can share the wealth.  They are a bit wild as I don't bother with them very much - only at shearing time when they get their vaccinations and worming.  I have them separated in a maternity pen now where they are being spoiled rotten, with egg layer mash and black oil sunflower seeds, along with lovely, fragrant grass hay purchased for a ridiculous price at the local feed and pet store.   When I dragged it into the barn this morning everybody went nuts.  The rest of the flock is eating sticks from a local dairy farm.  If only I had ten more round bales I would have been home free, but I've said that so many times I'm tired of hearing it.  Several years ago I came home from work to find a pretty little newborn doe kid cold and dead, just outside the door of the east end.  Mom had gone outside to have some privacy and dropped the baby in an icy rain.  Trying to avoid that happening again.  We clip a mom in the maternity pen every night.  Takes about an hour for me to do it with my Fiskar sewing scissors, after dinner and chores.  Matt holds the horns for me and is good for one goat.  After a long commute and an exciting day of weatherization training and writing curriculum, he is ready for a cigarette (not in the barn) and bed.  I have two big mohair fleeces from the last two nights and am looking forward to a few more.  I love the stuff.  Black yearling mohair is about my favorite fiber in the world.  Kid is too soft and short.  Yearling is curly and long.  Adult mohair can be too scratchy to wear but it makes great socks and rugs.  Nothing takes the dye bath like mohair.  On deck for today between trips out to the barn - cleaning up this ridiculous kitchen so I can make Almond and Patchouli soap.  At long last my beloved patchouli has arrived.  The stuff is magical.  I'll keep some out of the soap to put in creme.  I've already had an inquiry from someone in Washington about bringing patchouli creme to Maryland Sheep and Wool.  I won't put it out for sale, but will keep it under the table for the few of us who appreciate the precious oil.  Incredibly, many people don't know what patchouli is.  When I did put it out on the table, I must have have explained it forty times that day.  I'll keep the empty bottle to put dabs behind my ears over the summer.  Nothing keeps the bugs away like patchouli, AND it is every bit as antiseptic and antifungal as lavender.  I have 19 Bundaflicka totes hanging and more cut out.  I will have a box car load of soap if I get it all cut up and set out to cure today.  Trouble is, the drying rack is full of fiber art paraphanalia.  I need a dedicated soap drying room with wall to wall racks.  I need, I need, I need....In the meantime better go check the barn for babies.

Monday, April 08, 2013


Back to work this morning.  Definitely a reality check.  No more scrambled eggs at ten o'clock, no facebook (not allowed in school-fine with me) no spontaneous walks up the hill, no critters, no sewing machine, no playing with soap, no spinning wheel.  Well, I did have a wheel in school, but I brought it home over the break. I am very fortunate to have my job, but I love being home on the farm. Who could blame me?  Our seed planting in toilet paper roll cups went very well.  The big kids who came in at the same time as the little kids joined in, decorating their seed cups too.  I was very happy with the way the lesson went.  I discovered there is an enormous amount of valuable information on the back of the packet, like temperature zones, etc.  We had fun talking about things like what cat nip does to cats, and how you can eat nasturtium flowers.  The roll I was on working with product has come to a halt, with work today, climbing the hill after work with the dogs who were locked inside all day, making/serving dinner, then chores, then sofa time to write in my diary.   I did get a lot done with the few days I had after Easter.  Will wait for the weekend to do more.

I have a lot of soap to cut up and put out to cure, which always presents a spacial problem.  Somehow we make it all work out. 

Sunday, April 07, 2013


Decided to take the doggies on an early morning walk to the backside of my land.  I usually go straight up the hill, good to get my heart pounding, good to wear out the dogs so they leave me alone when I want to work, and good to take in such lovely views.   Everything is brown and gray but there are little tips of green grass here and there.  The stream coming down from the ridge is flowing from the snow melt.   The land is mushy and marshy there, duck party land, but it rises up to hard rocky soil with big shale outcroppings perfect for goats to romp and play on.  re is a cistern constructed by the former dairy farmers that is always filled with clear spring water.  Mushy land is not good for goats and sheep as we always have to be concerned about the deadly meningeal worm carried by snails in wet areas.  Rocky land is perfect for goats as it keeps their hooves trimmed and they love to eat the small shrubby bushes growing in that type of soil.  I intend to fence in the back land for goats and keep the sheep separate on the hillside.  There is also a lovely, large hawthorne grove that will shelter the goats in hot weather.  I love my land - I don't have a lot of it compared to other farms around here, but compared to the tiny lot I had in New Jersey, I am truly land rich, and it has so much beauty and character.  It is so varied and has so many ups and downs,  nooks and crannies that are artsy and interesting.  I found a tall tree with hundreds of tiny pine cones on the ground underneath it.  Fascinating to me as I didn't know a tree other than pines makes cones!  I'll make lots of holiday wreaths with my art students next fall.  Have to find my field guide... I took a good look at the back of the barn.  It needs so much work, and will take the rest of my life time to get it in shape, but it is a worthy effort.   On deck for today - Lemongrass Soap.  I made a big batch of Rosemary last night, separating some for Unscented Honey Oatmeal for a special customer in New Jersey who won't use anything else.  I have two really beautiful nubby tweed messenger totes finished,  and two more on the machine.  I'm beginning to think I will be okay in Maryland.  I will have too much wool, too much soap, an adequate amount of Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme (which costs a fortune to make, like the soap) and, hopefully, a hefty basket of hand spun yarn if my friend Kimmie Cornerstone is running that Louet up there in Canada.  The knitting bags will be outstanding, provided my animals, my teaching job, and my health cooperate.  God willing and the creek don't rise...

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Get It In Gear

Groggy today and I know why.  We stopped at La Maison Blanche yesterday and picked up some goodies to make us feel better when we got the bad news at the accountant.  No bad news - we didn't have to pay this year.  The bad news came this morning when I feel terrible after eating those naughty but divine pastries. I better get it in gear - so much to do today.  Matt is picking up hay and I have to get over to Waterville to the Louis Gale Feed Mill for my bi-monthly grain pick up.  Always nice to see Theresa who works there.  I'm giving the sheep a little grain each night to get them through this prolonged cold spring.  Have to catch the pregnant goats and get them partitioned away from the big FAT sheep who knock the goats out of the way.  Will check out fence line feeders at Maryland Sheep and Wool.  I have two lovely partially completed messenger totes on the machine, but can't touch them until all the sheep work is done, kitchen cleaned up and Rosemary soap made.  I gave up last night after chores and went to bed at 10.  Big mistake as I woke up at 2 and had to use various forms of mind control to get back to sleep.  The cappucino I drank with the goodies didn't  help.  Very cold this morning.  Love the coldness, but long for the green fields.  Last night I took the dogs out and gazed at the magnificent heavens.  There was every constellation I could think of and more displayed in the moonless night sky along with several orange planets.  My giant silo and pine tree silhouetted black against the stars makes me gasp at the beauty.  Very stiff this morning.  Started up on my yoga again and am aching a bit.  Has got to be done or I will shrivel up in a ball.  Forgot to get the kale I wanted at the market yesterday, but I got a good deal on Lilly's apples.  Five pounds for $5 instead of 3 for $4.99 locally.  Will not take spouse in the grocery store with me again as he kept making annoying comments like "Whadya need THAT for????" and "Are you done????"  Where does he think the food comes from?  The faeries?  

Friday, April 05, 2013

Last Day

Bolted up at 5:30 but forced myself to go back to sleep, just because I could.  It's Friday and the last day of my "vacation."  I'll make the best of the last remaining time I have to devote myself to my farm and my crafts.  Sewed late last night on two messenger totes.  They are tricky if you don't do them often, which I don't.  People are crazy about them.  I think it's awkward to have to pull up the big flap to get to your stuff, and prefer a wide, open, easy-access bag.  Maybe the messenger style is more youthful and stylish, which is so not me, anymore that is.   I wonder if the anaesthesioligist will stop by for another messenger tote.  She was thrilled with the special order tote I made for her last year, her second Bundaflicka tote.  She puts everything she needs to sustain her for hours of sitting by a patient in surgery in the tote - water bottles, knitting, books, etc.  The Gunlocke upholstery fabric is perfect for that.  Nice lady.  I look forward to seeing people year after year, and am always reluctant to leave the booth for fear I might miss somebody.  Took a walk up the hill with the doggies early.  Cooper loves the water!   We didn't go all the way up to the pond, but stopped half way up at the little hawthorne grove where the springs come up through the ground.  Cooper dug a new hole and found water.  He put his nose in it, snorting and having a good time.  The sheep are lined up at the gate to go out and graze but there is no grass, only moss and sticks from the thistle we mowed down.  I have to buy a brush hog to make sure that Scottish thistle does not come back this year.  We borrowed one from Julia Berger last year but it was too big for the little 1946 Ford to pull.  We have to navigate a huge slick of ice to get back into the barn door.  Fortunately there is some bark from chopping wood to keep me from going down while being pulled by dogs on leashes.   On deck for today - I have to journey south to Oxford to see Daryl Lanning and sign my tax returns - not usually a happy trip.  Let's put it this way, I never get money back.  Will stop in Norwich to pick up a few things and get back to the farm as quickly as I can to get back to work.  Critters, soap and sewing on the agenda for this afternoon.  I'm mulling over some things to do with my art students next week.  I might plant garden seeds in toilet paper rolls with the little ones, after they've decorated the rolls with picture of the veggies.  Then they can take them back to their classrooms and put them in the window to watch them sprout.  That requires purchasing planting soil and seeds, and figuring out what containers they can stand them up in, etc.  Nothing is simple in art class.  It's so much more than printing out worksheets...

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Warming Up

Went out the east end to do my babies/bodies check (when you have as many old animals as I do, and some pregnant ones, this is what you do several times a day) and felt the warm April sun.  Might even melt the remaining snow today.  The sheep are not liking the new hay but they eat it knowing it's all we've got and that the fields will green up if they are patient and wait.  They know we are all in it together and I only want the best for them.  Good sheep.  It will cost me more to keep them fed the next two months than it cost me all winter with my own hay but here we are.  Just didn't have enough of it.  Had some excitement when I turned on the stove to melt the vegetable shortening while making soap last night and the flame didn't come on.  Guess who forgot to call for a propane delivery.  It's a big deal to get more gas when it runs out, with switching out tanks, checking the system, etc.  Yes, I am a natural blonde, although grayish these days.  One would think the gray would help but no in my case.   Costs much more $$ now but here we are.  Good thing I have the electric dye stove in the milk room but the chickens have pooped all over it required a good hour of elbow grease.  I'm so mad at them, and the would-be carpenters who made a lack-luster effort to fix the chicken room door, that I'm grabbing the wild hens and putting them in the remaining rabbit cages.  They are furious but so am I.  I've gotten two eggs in two days from about seven hens so maybe they are settling down.  They get plenty of cracked corn and water, although they tip it every time I water them.  Pains in the butt...I didn't always have such a disorganized chicken situation.  I brought a few purebred chickens up here when I bought the farm.  One day I stopped by to visit Shepherd Mary, who had a large dog crate sitting on end in her front yard, filled with little chickens.  She said they were from a friend who gave them to Mary to take to market.  She offered them to me and I brought them home and released them in the barn.   They interbred with the fancy chickens and here we are.  At the time I had a terrible fly problem.  I had a living room set up in the hay mow, Anthropologie style, but couldn't sit there without my arms being black with flies in seconds.  The little chickens, who turned out to be Olde English Bantams, went to work on the flies.  Chickens love flies.  They are like chocolate to them.  The down side is that chickens find many places to hide and hatch eggs in the gigantic barn, and many of them are roosters.  Funny how that happens...I'm dreaming of a chicken tractor, a hen house on wheels,  that can be moved around the field with the chickens inside.  I would have to carry water to them, but what else is new.  Trouble is with hundreds of chickens I would have to have several tractors and a few kids around to move them and collect eggs.  Fantasies are free, right?  Sewing for the rest of the day, thank you Jesus,  then more soap making tonight.  Feels good to have it in the molds, even though there is much work still ahead with cutting, curing and wrapping.  Spouse left on a trip and took a bar stating he hates hotel soap.  I guess that is a veiled compliment.  Annie T. also said she didn't appreciate my soap until hotel soap made her skin dry and itchy.  I put all the shea butter, honey, oatmeal, and goat milk it will hold in the batch, along with melting silk fibers in the lye for extra protein.  Last night's eucalyptus is firming up nicely considering all the extra oil I put in there.   The week is flying by, with a trip to the accountant to find out what the annual damage is on deck for tomorrow.  I will go by the market to pick up more apples for Lilly.  I have a stack of Bundaflicka totes cut out to sew.  Manna from heaven.  I don't know what it is about purses that appeal to me.  I had a brocade fabric purse when I was young - lost in one of my many moves, and I was fascinated by it.  It was small and messenger style with ruffles around the flap.  I took it to the prom.  Funny how when I'm working so many memories fly through my head, like they are stopping by to say one last hello before leaving for another time and place.  

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


In from chores around ten.  Worried about some skinny girls out there.  Some of the sheep are fat and happy  but some are quite thin.  We really need that green grass to start growing.  I'm buying hay now and it looks like I will be buying it for some weeks to come.  Just what I need... I spent an hour or so scrubbing out old feed pans with bleach and water so I can give the sheep some grain.  Wish I had a better feeding system, as in any system at all.  The way I do it now I just toss out enough pans to spread everybody out.   The bullies dive in and crowd the weaker ones out, so  I, the biggest bully sheep of all, go in and feed the weak ones with the ladle.  Many out weigh me by many pounds but they know who the boss is.  I've been suspicious of a couple of black goatie girls who have been looking a tad roundish.  When they were gulping the grain I was able to palpate their udders from behind.  Sure enough there is a little swelling.  Not what I need to worry about three weeks before Maryland, but babies come from heaven!   I need help catching them and penning them in so will have to wait until Saturday when Matt comes back from a business trip.  Sure hope they don't drop any babies in this cold.  Angora babies do not do as well as lambs in the cold.  After all they are desert animals.  My one goat kid born this year, Little Guy, is as cute as a button, leaping and playing all the time.  I adore black mohair.  It is my absolute favorite fiber to spin, next to angora rabbit.  I made Lemon Eucalyptus soap tonight.  I doubled the essential oil as it is the best anti-bug soap there is.  I know we will have a killer year for fleas, just like last year, and eucalyptus is a terrific flea soap.   My whole house smells like Vicks Petroleum.  Does anyone use that any more?  I will sew a little more tonight.  My Bundaflicka Knitting Totes are decorating the ceiling of the apartment - the only safe place for them in this crazy house.  I have twelve hanging so far and two almost completed.  I'm having so much fun sewing them Sm and I have to make myself break away to do other things, like cook, clean and do chores.  Well, not really with the chores.  I love to spend time with my animals.  Every once in a while when I'm out there with them,  a sheep runs up to me and puts his nose on the side of my face.  I know that it's Lilly's boys, Forrest and Tucker.  Lilly's Luna is not as affectionate as her brothers - yet.  I bet she will be someday soon.  It was that way with the boys.  I want to keep Lilly's line going and will find a way to get Luna bred next year I think.  Lilly is just too old and I don't want her pregnant.  I'll go to town tomorrow to buy more apples.   It was an off night with no apples tonight, but I gave them grain instead.   I hear the weather will be warming up.  I confess I'm enjoying this cold with the extra light at night.  Seems strange to have snow on the ground and icicles hanging from the barn.   My dog walks up and around the pound are very invigorating and enjoyable.  The gold fish are not awake yet.   Smart fish.  I picked up the mail today - the first time I got in the car in five days, how wonderful.  My Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival catalogue was there.  Yes, I am listed as a vendor - Farm and Garden Building, booth 6, across from Susan's Fiber Shop.  I guess it's true.  Now I am nervous.  No use complaining or whining about everything I have to do.  I've done it for so many years nobody listens. I will burn the midnight oil and make it there somehow, birthing baby goats along the way.  I sent some pictures to Kimmie Cornerstone to enter into the photo contest.  Kim has a guy who prints and mats them so nicely.  I have one or two that I really like, but nothing that rivals Luna's Best in Show from last year.  Two years before that I won BIS for my dearly departed Horatio.  We'll see how it goes.  I want to enter some hand spun skeins this year.  Every time I wander through the fiber art exhibitions I'm sorry I didn't have anything in it.  Kim wins ribbons every year for her drop spindled hand spun.  Gorgeous stuff...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


April 2 and the weather is wild.  There is intermittent sunshine and dark clouds with a fierce wind blowing horizontal snow.  It was 18 F. this morning and has not risen much over 20 all day.  I confess I am fine indoors with my sewing and soap making.  If it was balmy and 60 out there I would be taking fleeces outside to skirt and planning my raised beds for kale and pumpkins - two things I want to grow this  year.  Truth be told we really need the fields to start growing grass.  I am totally out of round bales and am feeding some lovely green first cut from North Brookfield.   It's a bit more coarse than what my sheep are used to, but they are so hungry they're eating it.  Matt is picking it up every weekend for me until they can go out and graze.  By the looks of this weather that might be a while.   I had gotten used to forking round bales and miss them now.  The square bales are bound in polyester string that must be cut and collected or it will wrap around the sheep/goat feet and cause problems.  Just ask my poor Sidewinder.
Father Chaplain Aaron just called and we had a nice chat.  Lots of good things happening with him out there in the western desert.  Mia was able to make it up to the farm for Easter with us.  She was hardly here 24 hours but we made the most of every minute.  With her Nurse Practitioner job taking 14 hours a day of her time it is tough to get together.  I had not seen her since Christmas, the longest we have ever been separated.  What sweeties they both are.  Just took the doggies up the big hill for our daily spa walk.   It's pretty cold out there and the wind is ferocious.   Even the dogs did their business and ran for the door when we walked back down.  I'm walking new puppy (all 80 pounds of him) Cooper on the medieval torture collar mercifully sent to me by Carol Crayonbox.  It's the only way to prevent my arm from being ripped off.  We walk so nicely together, but he's figured out that if we stop and I let some slack go in the leash he can tip his head and drop it off.  That's when Cooper likes to run back down to the barn and go after the chickens.   He's such a sweet, beautiful dog, but killing chickens is not allowed on this farm. Thank goodness he hasn't gone after Matt's ducks.  I would have to put Cooper in the Witness Protection Program.   I'm hoping he matures and, with time, learns some manners.  Even with a basket full of juicy bones his favorite toy is my big round felted pin cushion.  When  I'm sewing I have to carry it around with me to keep Cooper from sneaking it off the machine.  He loves to pull the pins out with his mouth and toss them around.  Just what I need - dogs swallowing extra long dressmaker pins!!  

Catching Up

Off this week for spring break after a lovely Easter weekend with my family.  Eric, Annie and the kids arrived on Good Friday night and stayed through Sunday late morning.  We did our worship on the hill at the Church of the Universal Shepherd, in the most beautiful sanctuary God has ever created.  I loved having my family here, cooking for them and catching up on the news you don't hear on the phone or on-line.   We ate heartily, climbed the hill together, hunted for Easter eggs in the giant upper hay mow, and made Easter baskets for Hannah and Luke.  Luke is becoming more sophisticated at the ripe old age of 11 and pronounced "This is not an Easter basket - this is free candy!"  Maybe next year, if I am lucky enough to have them for Easter again, I will leave it at the Easter Egg Hunt.  Mia and I packed almost 50 eggs with candy and one dollar bills.   We must have done a good job hiding them, climbing ladders and teetering on platforms,  as Hannah and Luke could only find 36.  I found one egg fallen down to the lower level, broken open and the candy consumed by a hungry animal no doubt.  Annie spent Saturday afternoon packing over 50 Maggie's Farm Fiber Pack Samplers for me.  These six ounce bags of colorful fiber are a great buy and do well at the Hamilton Farmer's Market.  I'm still high on having them here.   I don't realize what an "alternative" lifestyle we enjoy here until people come to visit.  I worked very hard on Friday, a little knackered as I had a rough week with my aide being out for three days, but I got the place a little more organized and a little cleaner than it was before they came.  Needless to say there is a serious disruption in the Force, with everything not where it was last week, but I am slowly getting it back together.  The many totes I had designed and cut out are being sewn together, one by one, and I am loving it.     I've been sewing my Bundaflicka totes since, let me see, it must be 1993?  I was teaching knitting and quilting at a fancy summer school the Morris School District sponsors in New Jersey.  My aide, Lisa Palmer, was about to travel to Mexico and said she needed a bag.  I said, let's make you one since we have all this fabric here, and the rest is history. She also said she wanted to be able to secure it, so Bundaflicka buttons were born.  I have a picture somewhere of Lisa with the very*first*Bundaflicka*tote.  Would love to find it but I would also love world peace.  In the meantime I have almost ten totes hanging from the rafters ready to bring to Maryland in one month (oy!)  My goal is forty but thirty is more realistic, with going back to work next week and everything else I have to do.  Annie is coming to Maryland and maybe Hannah too.   Annie volunteered to be the financial officer so Kim and I can concentrate on helping the patrons.  I am happy to have her help.  Now to get there before Jenny the Potter parks her little U-haul full of cups and bowls on the only level spot next to the building where we camp.  Jenny rents a spacious house for her entourage but, for some strange reason, snatched our space next to the building where Kim and I have slept for the four years I've done Maryland.  This should  be the worst problem I encounter!  We love to stay on the grounds and wander around the sheep barns at night when the shepherds are taking care of their animals.   The gates start letting the patrons in at 7 am and this way we are always ready to go.